After our long drive through Europe, we finally arrived at our very own Bulgarian piece of paradise. We had timed it in such a way that we got there around lunch time with plenty of daylight to spare. The place has no outdoor lighting whatsoever and here in Bulgaria the skies are still pure and black at night. Magical, but highly impractical if you don’t have any lights to see your way through the garden.
Opening the gates and driving the trusty Land Rover inside was a magical moment we had been waiting for a long time and had been unsure if it would happen at all this year. Frunza leapt out of the car and looked happy and at home straight away. We went up to our house to take a look at what we would find. We had left it in a reasonable condition last year, but the builders had been working on the roof in the meantime, so anything was possible.
We found the place a little dustier and messy than we had left it, but the main room we had earmarked for staying in whilst doing up the house was still ok. One of our friends in Bulgaria had organised us a brand new mattress for on the old bedstead, the electricity and water were still on, so everything was sorted for now.
We went to work straight away unloading everything from the Land Rover and after a couple of hours of hard work, we finally were able to set up the kettle and have a cuppa. The first cuppa in our new – old home tasted delicious! Even with just powdered milk! The old place has a very calming and inviting feeling. It is hard to describe, but you immediately feel at home and welcome when you enter it. This house has a lot of good energy!
When I went to buy it last year and spent the very first afternoon there entirely on my own, the lady of the house clearly showed herself to me. I saw a cheerful old Bulgarian Baba at the window waving at me and I felt at home and welcome. The house has kept this feeling ever since. We found lots of family belongings still left in the house. Old photographs, letters, personal stuff. A wedding dress and Russian army uniform are still hanging in the wardrobe.
The place is a fascinating time warp. We managed to piece together part of the story. He was a Russian soldier who fell in love with a local Bulgarian girl and settled. Fascinating history. One day, I will get all the letters and correspondence translated. I’m sure it will reveal even more insights into a life well lived and a time gone by.
I am absolutely convinced that we were called to this house. It literally reached out to us over the miles. One night in February last year, Shawn was googling for property in Ireland as we had decided to buy something outside the UK as a safety net for all of the political shenanigans. With me having a German passport it seemed a prudent thing to do. So when entering Ireland in the search, a photo of this house popped up. It caught both our eye immediately. When Shawn clicked on it, it turned out to be this house in Bulgaria on a five-day Ebay auction.
We took a long, good look then went on to other things. After all, buying a house on Ebay seemed all a bit silly really. And Bulgaria was not a country on our bucket list at the time. But somehow the place just didn’t leave our minds. We both were drawn back time and time again to the listing. We started researching about Bulgaria and found out that it is, in fact, a beautiful country that is often overlooked. But the thought of the house got stronger and stronger and in the end, after much debate and research, we decided to give it a go.
Shawn placed a bid and we let the whole thing go. We were the high bidders at the time and we had put the amount we could afford. Now it was a matter of luck. But the next day, we had been outbid by a significant amount. So that was that, in our minds. For no reason I can possibly explain, I decided to take another look at the auction a couple of days later, just to find that the high bid had been withdrawn and we were once again the high bidders. With only hours left on the auction, we started to get real butterflies in the stomach. That night, Shawn continued the bidding. After a heart-stopping 30 minutes, that felt like a lifetime and the purest adrenaline rush I have ever felt, we closed the auction as the high bidders by just a few pounds. That was one of the tensest night in our entire lives!
Thinking back on all of this now, I am certain that we were called to the house. The old lady wanted a suitable successor who would love and honour her house like she once did. And we most certainly will! We will gently restore the house, making good any damage and restoring back to life anything that can be repaired to retain as much of the original feel as possible. The only concession we will make is to instal a bathroom and kitchen indoors. The old Bulgarian people firmly believed that having kitchen and toilet facilities indoors is dirty and therefore only had running water in the garden at an outdoor sink. And the toilet was always just the little house with a hole in the ground. We have been using this for the last weeks and it’s fine in the short term, but for us being used to running water and indoor facilities, life will be much better with that in place.
We are planning on restoring the old wattle and daub ceilings as they are excellent for regulating the temperature inside the house. Contrary to common belief, modern insulated ceilings will ruin the natural ability of an old house to regulate the temperature. Plus rockwool insulation is a perfect nesting ground for all sorts of unwanted inhabitants, such as mice and rats. So we will search for someone who can teach us about repairing rather than replacing the old ceilings. We will also restore the wooden windows and doors as they have a unique and charming style all of their own. With a careful and loving approach, this house will retain all of its charm.
Shawn spent the first couple of weeks clearing away some of the dirt and rubbish whilst I continued to work on the large translating job that had come in during our travels. Little by little, everything started falling into place. We found old furniture in the old cottage next to the house and with a bit of brushing and cleaning found it good enough to use. Now the place is already much cosier and more comfortable.
We started meeting up with our friends we had made in the area over the last year via the internet and found ourselves welcomed by a friendly expat community as well as lovely Bulgarian friends. It’s lovely to come all this way and find such a friendly welcome!
We also sorted much of the official stuff and managed to get our Bulgarian residency, meaning that we will be able to stay here any time we want to now without being restricted to holidays only. It feels good to have a second home in a place as beautiful as this!
Bulgaria is definitely a lovely country. The area of our house is not a tourist spot, but true farming country. It’s nice to see the real Bulgaria without all the tourist traps you would usually find elsewhere. The people have been nothing but kind and helpful all around and even though we’re still struggling with the lingo, we’ve been able to communicate with the locals. Hands and feet are great interpreters! As is Google Translate – an invaluable tool!
After settling into the routine of our place and life in the country, it is now already time to set off again to our second place. We will be completing the exchange of deed for a lovely place in the Silistra region. I am planning on converting this second place into an eco retreat centre where people from all over the world can meet to learn how to live in harmony with Mother Earth. So we will be off soon for more adventures. Keep checking back to see how the story continues.